2020 will go down as a year that altered the course of history. One of the major implications of the Covid-19 pandemic has been the fact that it has accelerated a switch to all things digital. The world has had to adapt the way that it communicates and does business – social media usage has skyrocketed, businesses have adopted a ‘virtual’ way of working and work from home (WFH) has become an accepted business practice.
As we head towards the end of the year, there is no reverting back to the ‘way things were’.
Here are the leading digital marketing trends expected for 2021.
Rise of the chatbot
If you’ve had an e-commerce transaction go wrong or had a food app order mishap, chances are you’ve had to deal with a chatbot. The growth of online and e-commerce purchases, coupled with a chatbot’s ability to interact with customers and mimic real-life interactions, makes it a very attractive go-to solution for businesses.
For marketers, however, this presents a unique opportunity whereby they can use chatbots to not only provide instant customer service, but also be a source of direct interaction for information and data collection.
More recently, the use of chatbots has expanded, and they are being used in creative ways to help drive customer engagement and website traffic. Chatbots are not going anywhere and we will only see them becoming more prevalent as time goes on.
Voice activated search becoming the norm
This trend pays tribute to our most famous virtual assistants: Siri, Google Home and Alexa. Over the last few years, people have been using digital voices to assist them with nearly everything: playing music, checking the weather, setting alarms and getting directions.
Voice search has also been integrated into many of our everyday tech devices like smartphones, laptops, tablets and more. Thanks to the ease and convenience it provides, voice activated search is predicted to further hit a high in 2021. In line with this trend, there lies a great opportunity for digital marketers, who must look at stepping up their business’s SEO game.
If we consider the fact that the future of search is voice, then marketers must be cognisant of this trend and choose keywords for SEO optimisation that are compatible with what people are accustomed to asking a virtual assistant. Text-based search is going to be a thing of the past soon, so in order to ensure that your content is visible, one must ensure it is optimised for both voice and text search.
The integration of AR and VR
The two major technological advancements that are ready to overtake the present and future of business are undoubtedly augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR). From product development to storytelling and creating engaging content, AR and VR have emerged as the heroes of this pandemic and allowed marketers to bring experiences to life – albeit virtually.
While video content will prevail as a dominating force in the years to come, the next ‘big thing’ that will have a major impact in 2021 is the use of AR and VR to create 3D environments that strengthen the emotional bonds between a brand, its products and the customers.
Many brands have already started implementing AR into their customers’ regular shopping experiences – for example Ikea customers can now access an AR app and see a 3D illustration of furniture in their home spaces before making a purchase, or Asos customers can take the ‘The virtual walk’ where they see a real-world vision of their favourite garments on a virtual model.
A new era of ‘shoppable posts’
Online shopping has seen a major uptick during the pandemic and ‘shoppable posts’ are fast becoming the norm, rather than the exception.
With the breadth of shoppable posts spanning all major social media platforms including Instagram, Facebook, YouTube and Pinterest, businesses have tremendous power to maximising their e-commerce presence across a multitude of platforms. Customers can easily click on the shopping icon of any product showcased on a company’s Instagram feed and either be directed to the e-commerce website page or go straight to check out. Either way, it’s easy, convenient and hassle free.
Domination of short-form video content
Video content is all set to solidify its position as the GOAT (greatest of all time) of content marketing in 2021. The pandemic has only highlighted its importance and the demand for video is not going to be slowing down anytime soon. It is fast becoming a cornerstone of any business’ marketing strategy and brands have already made tremendous progress with their video content strategies.
But most noteworthy is the fact that short-form video content is emerging as a front runner. While long-form content still has a place, short form videos are dominating – they’re succinct videos and snippets that are a quick fix for brands that want to connect with their customers and stay top of mind. They’re memorable, easily digestible and can push engagement. One only has to look at the astronomical success of TikTok during Covid-19 to see the appetite of consumers for short and snackable-sized content.
Zaib Shadani is a PR consultant and media trainer at Shadani Consulting